There’s a reason you didn’t hear much about the Afghan elections in October 2004.
It’s the same reason you won’t hear much about last month’s Iraqi elections.
It’s because they were both successful.
Good news is no news in modern politics. If it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead. If it doesn’t do down Uncle Sam, then most networks aren’t interested.
Don’t doubt that our screens would now be blanketed with images of empty voting booths and stacked unused ballot papers if the elections had been wracked with violence and concomitant low turn-out, as a prelude to lengthy po-faced “America has failed” articles.
But instead, in both elections citizens flocked to the polls. With everything that stands against them, with all the troubles that face their respective nations, democrats in Iraq and Afghanistan voted in huge numbers.
Over 10 million Afghans registered to vote, and - even with threats of violence and the disturbances that punctuate everyday life in that still-troubled country - an estimated 80 per cent of them voted.
In Iraq, billboards announced: “you vote, you die.” And still voters queued to cast their ballots. Thugs have been carrying out such threats in the country for so long that the people knew it to be deadly serious. But still it’s estimated that over 60 per cent voted.
These elections have shown that the great majority of the people in the countries concerned want to vote. They want a chance to participate in their own governance, to have the basic right - a right we have enjoyed for so long that we no longer recognise its importance - to choose who represents them and who decides the rules by which they live.
In these elections, dissident voices that were once repressed were at last heard. Beliefs and ideals were openly debated. And, in their millions, women were emancipated in societies that had previously denied them basic rights.
So when considering the American-led spread of democracy, you should ask yourself this: Would you prefer it if the elections had not happened? This is a fair question. No-one seriously believes that these elections would have happened without the intervention of American and allied forces.
Perhaps elections would have taken place in one or two generations. Perhaps. But such arguments were made in the 1960s, when precisely the same number of democracies existed in the Arab world as existed until the Iraqi election of January 2005 - none.
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